Types of Arguments for God

Types of Arguments for God
Coming up next: William Paley's Teleological Argument

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  • 0:01 Teleological
  • 1:08 Cosmological
  • 2:03 Moral
  • 3:15 Ontological
  • 4:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will discuss the teleological, cosmological, moral, and ontological arguments for God. It will also highlight the works of Paley, Aquinas, and Anselm.


For longer than 'Why'd the chicken cross the road?', or 'Which came first, the chicken or the egg?', people have been asking, 'Does God exist?' This is an especially favorite question among philosophers. With this in mind, today's lesson will be a brief survey of some of the most famous arguments for the existence of God. We'll begin with two arguments that use the natural world as evidence. They are the teleological and cosmological arguments.

Also called the design argument, the teleological argument asserts creation is so intricately and purposefully designed there must be a creator. Anytime you hear someone say something to the effect of 'Wow, look at the sunset God made for us today,' they are using the teleological argument.

As one of the main proponents of the teleological argument, the 18th-century philosopher, William Paley, asserted that believing the universe came to be by chance is as nonsensical as believing the watch we wear on our wrist just one day poofed into being. Putting it in terms to help us remember, Paley purported the pretty plants and planets prove that God exists.


Another argument that uses nature is the cosmological argument. This one espouses that everything that is has been caused by something else. Having its basis in the works of Thomas Aquinas, and being very linked to the teleological camp, the cosmological argument asserts that all of nature must have been caused by something.

Yes, humans have made lots of things, but who caused humans? Yes, plants make oxygen, but who caused the plants? Stretching things a bit more, what about the Big Bang Theory? Maybe there was a Big Bang, but it needed to be caused! With this, cosmological campers would say, 'God is the final and ultimate cause of the cosmos!'

Moving a bit away from the natural world, we come to our last two arguments. They are the moral and ontological arguments for God. Being the easier of the two, we'll start with the moral argument.


Again having its roots in the works of Aquinas and being easy to understand, the moral argument for the existence of God declares that humans understand morality because God is the ultimate measuring stick.

To drive this home, let's do a little exercise. I'm going to say a thing, and you decide whether it's good or bad. Don't over think it; just say the first thing that pops into your mind. Good or bad. Here we go…

Feeding starving children. Good or bad? . . . I'm guessing you said, 'good.'

Hitler's mass genocide . . . I'm guessing you said, 'bad!'

Last one - Helping an elderly woman after she's fallen . . . Again, I'm thinking you said, 'good.'

Now here's the question that the moral argument begs. If I've never met you, how did I guess what you were going to say? Why do we both have the same ideas of good or bad? To this, the moral argument proponents would answer, 'God!' We understand morality because, whether we admit it or not, we use God's perfection as the gauge for everything else. We recognize evil because it so sharply contrasts his perfection.


Our last argument for the existence of God is the ontological argument. We've saved it for last because it's the most confusing. In fact, if it makes your head spin, don't worry. The best philosophical minds of the last few hundred years have wrestled with this one.

The ontological argument asserts God, being defined as most great or perfect of all beings, must exist, since a God who exists is greater than a God who does not. Like I said, it's pretty heavy stuff! Let's break it down.

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